The Search and Rescue pie
Search and Rescue (SAR) statistics in B.C. are collected by the Provincial Emergency Program, which coordinates the activities of many agencies including emergency services and Search and Rescue when dealing with incidents. The bill for things like helicopter time and meals for SAR volunteers also goes through the PEP, which budgets money each year to cover the cost of rescues.
According to PEP spokesman Glen Plummer, the province averages roughly 1,200 searches and rescues a year, some of which may not include Search and Rescue teams. That total also does not include marine searches that fall under federal jurisdiction and are usually coordinated by the Coast Guard.
Of those 1,200 calls, roughly 24 per cent are for hiking incidents, and 12 per cent for freshwater boating including powerboats (roughly seven per cent of all calls) and canoes/kayaks (five per cent of calls). Snowmobile incidents count for about seven per cent of the total, and backckountry skiing and snowboarding about three per cent, the same as for mountain biking. Hunters account for roughly 2.5 per cent of calls, rock climbers, two per cent, and pickers - berries, mushrooms, etc. - account for three per cent.
Various other calls, which could include everything from the response to plane crashes to rescuing people who work in the backcountry, account for the other 35 per cent.
The cost of answering those calls is roughly $1.5 million annually, or roughly $1,250 per call.
According to Plummer, the cost varies. "It includes things like fuel for vehicles, if there are helicopters involved, meals for SAR volunteers, that sort of thing," he said.
Avalanche deaths in 2008-09
As of press time on Jan. 21 there have been 16 avalanche deaths reported in Canada in seven difference incidents, including 15 deaths in B.C.
· On Dec. 28, eight residents of Sparwood, B.C., near the town of Fernie, were killed when a series of avalanches hit their party in the Harvey Pass area. According to reports, a group of seven snowmobilers were buried in the initial slide, and a second group joined the search when a second and third avalanche hit. Three men managed to escape, although they were digging out another member of the party when the last avalanche struck.
All of the snowmobilers wore avalanche transceivers, but members of the second party switched from send to receive in the initial search. A storm and nightfall delayed the search, which proceeded carefully because of the avalanche risk. Some bodies were found under more than three metres of snow.